‘Trolls World Tour’ Tops July Disc Sales; ‘Frozen II’ Remains 2020’s Best-Seller

Universal Pictures’s Trolls World Tour was No. 1 on the domestic top 10 list of combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales for July 2020 according to the NPD Group’s VideoScan tracking service.

The DreamWorks Animation sequel spent two weeks atop the weekly disc sales charts following its July 7 release on disc. A double-feature of both “Trolls” movies was No. 6 for the month.

Warner’s Scoob! which topped the weekly disc sales the last two weeks of the month following its July 21 release, was No. 2 for the month.

The previous month’s top seller, Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog, slipped to No. 3 in July.

Without much in the way of big new releases as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the rest of the monthly top 10 sellers consisted of catalog titles. No. 4 was Warner’s The Mule, starring Clint Eastwood. No. 5 was Paramount’s Top Gun, which climbed two spots from the previous month. Universal’s Jurassic World was No. 7 for the month, while Universal’s Jaws held onto the No. 8 spot for a second month.

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The year’s top eight titles remained unchanged from the previous month, led by Disney’s Frozen II, which has been the year’s best seller since February.

The only blip on the yearly top 10 as a result of July sales was that Paramount’s Terminator: Dark Fate rose a spot to No. 9, pushing Sony Pictures’ Zombieland: Double Tap to No. 10.

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According to NPD, the July 2020 top 10 by units sold were:

  1. Trolls World Tour (Universal/DreamWorks)
  2. Scoob! (Warner)
  3. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)
  4. The Mule (Warner)
  5. Top Gun (Paramount)
  6. Trolls 2-Movie Collection (Universal/DreamWorks)
  7. Jurassic World (Universal)
  8. Jaws (Universal)
  9. The Secret Life of Pets (Universal)
  10. Ride Along 2-Movie Collection (Universal)

 

Year-to-date Top 10 (through July 2020):

  1. Frozen II (Disney)
  2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney/Lucasfilm)
  3. Joker (Warner)
  4. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony Pictures)
  5. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Disney)
  6. Bad Boys for Life (Sony Pictures)
  7. Midway (2019) (Lionsgate)
  8. 1917 (Universal)
  9. Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount)
  10. Zombieland: Double Tap (Sony Pictures)

 

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Tops June Disc Sales; ‘Frozen II’ Remains Year’s Best

Bob Chapek Uses Home Entertainment Resumé to Push Disney Across PVOD Line in the Sand

NEWS ANALYSIS — With its live-action feature film Mulan delayed three times at the box office due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and theaters not slated to re-open (maybe) until later this month, Disney had to act.

CEO Bob Chapek reached back to his home entertainment roots and went where former CEO Bob Iger never ventured: premium VOD. Chapek, former president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, announced Aug. 4 that Disney+ subscribers would be afforded exclusive in-home access to Mulan on Sept. 4 for $29.99. The movie will be released simultaneously in theaters in regions internationally that do not have access to Disney+.

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In crossing the PVOD line in the sand with theaters, Chapek dealt a major short-term blow to exhibitors that have come to count on Disney movies to drive attendance and concession sales. It was just over a year ago that Disney’s market share of the domestic movie theaters reached 35% ($1.88 billion) — surpassing the next two studios combined.

With Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, The Lion King and Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Far From Home (produced by Disney’s Marvel Studios), Disney reigned supreme at the box office. Previous attempts at jumpstarting PVOD had largely failed because Disney refused to join. The studio ended 2019 with seven movies each generating more than $1 billion at the global box office — a fiscal tally replicated in 2018.

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“We have a studio that is doing extremely well and a [90-day release window] formula that is serving us really well in terms of its bottom line,” Iger said last November.

How times have changed. And for Chapek, upending traditional distribution business models is part of his legacy. As home video boss, Chapek championed the shrewd “Disney Vault” release strategy for its legacy animation titles. The studio would take specific DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies out of retail circulation and put them into the “vault” for months, thereby allowing the studio to re-sell the movies to starved hardcore fans, families and general consumers.

For Mulan, which reportedly has upwards of $300 million in production and marketing costs, going straight to home entertainment allows Chapek to test the PVOD waters while leaving the door open to theatrical.

“In order to meet the needs of consumers during this unpredictable period, we thought it was important to find alternative ways to bring this exceptional family-friendly film to them in a timely manner,” Chapek said. “We see this as an opportunity to bring this incredible film to a broad audience currently unable to go to movie theaters, while also further enhancing the value and attractiveness of a Disney+ subscription.”

Chapek said the Mulan PVOD release would be (for now) a one-off experiment, and Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter believes him.

“It really is that they can’t afford to do nothing and wait for theaters to re-open,” Pachter said. “It will be more problematic for Marvel stuff down the road.”

Virus Reckoning: Four Studios to Report Fiscal Earnings This Week

NEWS ANALYSIS — Bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic on its business operations, major studios Disney, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and Sony Pictures face the fiscal music this week, reporting quarterly results, beginning with Sony before the market opens Aug. 4.

Most attention will be directed at Disney, which reports results after the market closes Aug. 4. With nearly every aspect of its business under siege during the pandemic, expect CEO Bob Chapek to focus on the positive: Disney+, which launched service in Asia (i.e. Japan) during the reporting third quarter, undoubtedly adding to the 54.5 million subscribers the platform reported at the beginning of May.

It’s an Ace card Chapek can use to counter Netflix’s July fiscal gem, generating almost 11 million new subscribers globally to surpass 190 million.

Disney moved intended theatrical release Artemis Fowl to its subscription streaming video platform during the quarter, while Pixar’s Onward joined the service after movie theaters shut down due to the pandemic.

Disney studio, pay-TV (ESPN) and theme park business segments will have little positive to report except maybe reduced operating costs — underscoring the company’s tens of thousands of furloughed workers. Disney re-opened parks in Paris, Florida, Shanghai and Hong Kong and then closed Hong Kong again temporarily following spikes in COVID-19 infections.

But Disney did score a coup of sorts when it contracted with the NBA to host the league’s pandemic-shortened season, including hosting players, coaches and staff at its facilities in Orlando, Fla.

“Many of Disney’s operations require bringing people together in large groups,” The Motley Fool’s Parkev Tatevosian wrote in a note. “The company won’t get back to running on all cylinders until there is a vaccine or treatment breakthrough for the coronavirus.”

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ViacomCBS has busied itself expanding the portfolio and distribution reach for ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV, in addition to online-based Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV) to consumers spending increasingly more time with over-the-top video.

The company inked a deal with NBCUniversal’s upstart Peacock streaming service for NBCUniversal’s Peacock for library movie and TV show content, including  The Godfather Trilogy, “Ray Donovan,” “Undercover Boss,” and “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” among others.

“We believe COVID-19 is a catalyst for ViacomCBS to push through … significant hidden value in Paramount’s library and in ViacomCBS streaming services,” Laura Martin, analyst with Needham & Co., wrote in a July 31 note. “Film and TV libraries are becoming more valuable over time. With 140,000 TV episodes plus 3,600 films in the ViacomCBS library, this suggests valuable optionality to maximize economics through either developing or licensing its intellectual property to others.”

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With its theatrical business sidelined, Sony Pictures Entertainment in May announced an expansion of its “Imax Enhanced” releases, including catalog titles, as well as theatrical releases for home entertainment across the Europe, North America and Asia Pacific regions.

Imax markets a branded in-home “Imax private theatre” package that offers consumers the required technology, screen and audio to screen Blu-ray releases, including 4K UHD, in the home.

“SPE’s investment in the Imax Enhanced program ensures that we will continue to deliver even more of our films to audiences who now expect to experience movies at the highest technical quality — even in their own homes,” Pete Wood, SVP of new digital distribution at Sony Pictures, said in May.

In its previous fiscal result, Lionsgate attributed a $50 million loss due to COVID-19. The home entertainment distributor added more than 10 million Starz SVOD subscribers. Look for Lionsgate to up focus on home entertainment, which generated record $600 million in catalog revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31.

The distributor sold about $257 million in packaged-media product, down about $500,000 from 2019. Disc sales of major feature movies increased nearly 43% to $154.8 million from $108.4 million in the previous-year period.

Warner Bros. ‘Tenet’ Now Set For Labor Day Weekend Release

Warner Bros. July 27 disclosed the tentative Sept. 3 re-scheduled theatrical release of Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller Tenet, starring Robert Pattinson and John David Washington. The film is launching next month in 70 international territories.

The movie, along with Disney’s live-action Mulan, has been widely considered the studios and exhibitors’ path back to some normalcy at a domestic box office ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns. Tenet was originally slated for July 15 and then continually delayed due to surges in virus infections across the country. Influx of new content into theaters would then follow with fresh home entertainment titles on digital and packaged media.

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Myriad studio titles previously earmarked for theatrical release have either been postponed to next year, indefinitely or re-directed to premium video-on-demand.

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The Tenet international release slate includes:

  • Aug. 26 — Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
  • Aug. 27 — in Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Middle East, New Zealand, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Aug. 28 — East Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Vietnam; Sept. 3 in the U.S., Kuwait and Qatar.
  • Sept. 10 — Azerbaijan, CIS Others, Kazakhstan, Russia;
  • Sept. 17 — Cyprus
  • Sept. 18 — Japan.

 

Release dates for Latin America and China remain undisclosed.

Disney Delays ‘Mulan’ Theatrical Release Indefinitely

Disney has pulled live-action Mulan from its theatrical slate, citing ongoing concerns with the coronavirus pandemic. Disney has not announced a replacement date. The move follows Warner Bros. yanking Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller Tenet from its box office slate.

COVID-19 infections have now topped 4 million in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. AMC Theatres earlier July 23 announced it would delay re-opening 600 theaters in the U.S. until the middle of August from the previously-delayed July 30 date.

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“Over the last few months, it’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis, and today that means pausing our release plans for Mulan as we assess how we can most effectively bring this film to audiences around the world,” Disney said in a media statement first reported by Variety.

Like Tenet, the latest delay for Mulan is the movie’s third, following separate pushbacks to July 24 and Aug. 21 from the film’s initial March 27 release date.

With Disney still slated to release Marvel’s Black Widow in November from its original May debut, further delaying the superhero movie to 2021 would result in the first year Disney has not released a Marvel title at the box office since 2009.

ESPN Inks Production Deal With Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick may not get another chance to play in the NFL, but the former Super Bowl quarterback turned activist has no shortage of media opportunities.

Disney-owned ESPN Films July 6 announced it has entered into a production deal with the 32-year-old former University of Nevada standout, who hasn’t played football since 2017, for a multi-episodic series similar to “The Last Dance” docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The series will focus on Kaepernick’s stardom with the San Francisco 49ers and his speaking out on racial issues.

“Using extensive new interviews and a vast never-before-seen archive that documents the last five years, Kaepernick will tell his story from his perspective,” Disney said in a statement.

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Kaepernick, who came within one pass of winning the 2012 Super Bowl, began his silent protest against alleged racial injustice, police brutality and systematic oppression in the country during the playing of the national anthem in the 49ers’ third preseason game in 2016. The following week, and throughout the regular season, Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem. The protests generated highly-polarized reactions, with some praising him and others denouncing the protests.

Bob Iger, executive chairman of Disney, said Kaepernick’s experience gives him a unique perspective on the intersection of sports, culture and race in today’s society.

“This will undoubtedly create compelling stories that will educate, enlighten and entertain, and we look forward to working with him on this important collaboration,” Iger said.

Last month, Netflix announced that Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Ava DuVernay would create a series about Kaepernick’s life.

FuboTV Drops WarnerMedia Content, Raises Subscription Prices

Online television service FuboTV has joined other digital TV platforms raising prices while at the same time restricting access to select third-party content. The service is bumping up the monthly fee $5 across its bundles: Base ($59.99), Family Bundle ($64.99), and Ultra ($84.99) — emulating a recent 30% price hike by Google-owned YouTube TV.

Online TV pioneer Sling TV remains the only platform that has not raised prices.

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“Sometimes to help us bring you new channels at the best value, and to deliver premium features like live sports in 4K, we need to remove other channels and adjust subscription prices,” Fubo said in a media statement. “Turner networks will be leaving as of July 1, and subscription prices will be changing.”

Indeed, 11 channels from WarnerMedia and Turner have been dropped, including TNT, TBS, CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español, HLN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies, truTV and Boomerang, when a carriage agreement couldn’t be reached.

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“We are disappointed that our deal with fuboTV is not being renewed, as we have been working with them and were open to a potential renewal,” WarnerMedia said in a statement.

Meanwhile, FuboTV has added Disney content, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ABC, ABC News Live, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, SEC Network and ACC Network, FX, FXX and National Geographic, among others.

Ford to Debut New Bronco Vehicles in Short Films on Disney, Hulu Platforms

With automobile shows canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ford Motor Company July 2 announced it would reveal its new Ford Bronco 4×4 vehicles in a series of custom videos on July 13 across Disney’s Media Networks, including ABC, ESPN, National Geographic and Hulu.

It’s the first time Ford has launched a primetime TV product reveal across Disney’s broadcast, cable, digital and streaming channels.

The automaker initially planned to reveal the Bronco 4×4 SUVs in June at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. After the pandemic prompted organizers to cancel the show, Ford’s marketing team reconceived the reveal strategy, aiming to pull in an even broader audience.

The campaign marks the first time Disney’s creative agency is deploying custom branded content, across multiple networks. Each film will air on the respective networks during the first commercial break in the 8 p.m. ET hour.

All three-minute films will be available to viewers on Hulu, starting July 14, through interactive ad formats, and within a curated collection of outdoor and survival-themed content aligned with the Bronco lifestyle.

“With Ford, we’re reimagining what a product reveal can look like by drawing upon our sports, entertainment and streaming brands,” Rita Ferro, president, Disney Advertising Sales, said in a statement.

The ABC spot features country music singer Kip Moore during “CMA Best of Fest,” the Country Music Association’s three-hour concert experience, airing July 13 (8–11 p.m. ET). The ESPN video — airing during “SportsCenter” — features a different Bronco model with professional climber Brooke Raboutou.

Academy Award-winning director, cinematographer, photographer Jimmy Chin will spotlight another Bronco during “National Parks: Yosemite” on National Geographic. Additionally, Chin will judge a hashtag challenge contest and appear in an “Instagram Story” featuring the Bronco on NatGeo’s Instagram account.

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In addition to the films created for ABC, ESPN and National Geographic, Ford also will share additional special content with fans on its YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels starting at 8 p.m. ET on July 13.

“As a new era for Bronco begins, we’re proud to tap the strengths of epic adventurers like Jimmy Chin and Disney storytellers to help bring Bronco to life,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer.

Disney Delays ‘Mulan’ Theatrical Release to August

As expected, Walt Disney Studios June 26 announced it is delaying for the second time the theatrical release of live-action feature film Mulan to Aug. 21 from the movie’s previously-delayed debut on July 24. The film had been originally slated for March 27.

The big-budget remake of the 1998 animated movie that generated more than $300 million at the global box office is being pushed back due to a resurgence of coronavirus infections throughout the country, notably California, Texas and Florida.

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“While the pandemic has changed our release plans for Mulan and we will continue to be flexible as conditions require, it has not changed our belief in the power of this film and its message of hope and perseverance. Director Niki Caro and our cast and crew have created a beautiful, epic, and moving film that is everything the cinematic experience should be, and that’s where we believe it belongs — on the world stage and the big screen for audiences around the globe to enjoy together,” Alan Horn, co-chairman and CCO, and Alan Bergman, co-chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, said in a joint statement.

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The delay, coupled with Warner Bros. pushing back Christopher Nolan’s international espionage thriller Tenet to Aug. 12, is another setback for major exhibitors such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark, which have staked much of their fiscal return on re-opening screens with new content.

Warner Again Pushes Back ‘Tenet’ Theatrical Release

The theatrical business return to normal took another hit when Warner Bros. late June 25 announced it would again delay the release of Christopher Nolan’s international espionage thriller, Tenet, to Aug. 12 from July 31. The movie starring Robert Pattinson and John David Washington, among others, was originally slated to bow on July 17.

The move suggests Disney could follow delaying the July 24 release of live-action Mulan, which was originally scheduled to release on March 27. The studio has made no announcement.

Major exhibitors such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark have embraced Mulan and Tenet as new studio releases targeting moviegoers with the message that cineplexes offer more than recycled movie classics and home entertainment titles.

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But with COVID-19 generating the highest one-day total (more than 37,000) of new infections in the United States since the pandemic began — predominantly in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida — studios and media companies have hit the hold button.

Disney just a day ago said it was delaying reopening Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif., due to issues regarding meeting the state’s guidelines toward reopening the economy.